The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) will soon have the option entering into an agreement with graft suspects to return the loot and avoid lengthy court processes.

In a new law proposed by nominated Senator Farhiya Ali, suspects facing corruption charges could avoid jail if they agree to a deal with the Office of DPP, if they agree to own up to their crimes and surrender the ill-gotten wealth.

This follows concerns over long and time-consuming court cases, complicated investigations and trials that bog down anti-graft agencies. The draft Bill proposes an amendment to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act to grant amnesty to corruption suspects under the concept of deferred prosecution agreements.

The proposed Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which introduces a concept called deferred prosecutions in which suspects will have to enter into the deal with the ODPP, is in response to perceived deficiencies in the existing prosecution framework involving economic crimes, which include expensive and complicated investigations and trials for offences of economic crime.

The Bill proposes that before criminal proceedings are instituted against any corruption suspect, the ODPP should invite that person into negotiations for the purpose of entering into a deferred prosecution agreement. However, that option will only be exercised if the DPP is convinced that public interest would be served if the parties enter into the agreement.

The suspects will only benefit from deferred prosecution if, among other things, they surrender all private assets they acquired using stolen funds, pay interest on the stolen money, compensate victims of their alleged crimes, besides accepting to pay the ODPP a financial penalty.

The deferred prosecution agreement will only be effected with the approval of a judge of the High Court.

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